A Day in the Life: “I am part of an orchestra of scientists”

Based in the United States, Jennifer Ose talks about balancing a busy life as a cancer epidemiologist, an assistant professor and a parent every single day.

World Cancer Research Day

24 September is World Cancer Research Day, which raises awareness of the important and lifesaving work done by researchers. As part of this the EACR asked a variety of members to share a day in their life as a cancer researcher.

Name: Jennifer Ose
Nationality: Germany
Place of work: Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah, US
Job title: Research Assistant Professor
How long have you worked there: 4 years

Jennifer Ose
Jennifer and her sons exploring Utah

It is 6.00am. My alarm is ringing. I get up, prepare breakfast and wake up the kids. While drinking my coffee I read my emails, check my calendar for the day. It is 8.30 when I arrive at my favourite coffee drive thru to get my usual. At the same time, I dial in to an early call with colleagues from Europe – bluetooth handsfree is the key. International collaborations are the key for large-scale cancer research. It is all about the exchange of ideas, sharing biospecimens and planning of future research projects.

Once this first call is done, I am in my office and confer with my colleagues. Are there any interesting talks or presentations today? One of us should go and share with those who are working on pressing deadlines. Then 30 minutes of email reading – no more, no less. If I have learned something in the past 4 years, there is always a new email. Can you answer it quickly? Yes. Will it disturb your workflow? Yes.

Next, I leave to teach a class as part of the Population Health Sciences PhD program with the emphasis “Clinical and Translational Epidemiology”. I love sharing my experience in cancer research. I love to communicate and critically discuss epidemiologic studies and concepts and inspire conversation with the next generation of cancer epidemiologists.

At 10.45: I am back in the office. During the days more meetings and more conference calls. New project proposals, data working groups, medical data abstraction and so forth. Our biostatistician and I discuss some analyses for ongoing research projects. Also on the to-do-list planning of budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

Jennifer Ose
The Ulrich Lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute

There is something new every day, it is never boring, and the day is always to short. Challenges are expected, part of the job, science never goes straight. Data need to be cleaned, results are intriguing, but let us double check. Statistical programs are running again. There is a knock at the door. I am supervising a MD student from Germany, who is working on his doctorate thesis. We are evaluating different lab assays. However, before we can use invaluable patient specimens, we need to plan and perform a pilot study. We also need to decide on the analytes we want to measure. While we are diving into pros and cons, a call from our post grant office. We need a subaward agreement signed today. The responsible PI is travelling. Calling, texting and for the first time in decades I see a fax coming through – signed by the PI.

Contracts, patents, agreements: they are a huge part of a cancer research. Can there be one standard agreement? – No. Will it be more complicated with more institutions from the US and Europe? – Yes.

Jennifer Ose
Jennifer teaching clinical and translational epidemiology

Is it more fun, is it more exciting, is it culturally enriching, and is it an opportunity to study rare diseases in larger populations? Yes it is. As a cancer epidemiologist, I am part of an orchestra of scientists. Ranging from geneticists, oncologists, surgeons and pathologists to kinesiologists, statisticians, biochemists and many more. Every new project is an opportunity to learn something new. It is also an opportunity to expand the horizon.

It is 5.15pm. My kids are waiting for me. Twice a week: soccer practice. Two boys, two different places, and of course – at the same time. There is always a challenge. We just need to tackle it. It is 10.30pm. The kids are sleeping. I am tired, but I agreed to review a manuscript by tomorrow. It is an interesting topic and I am curious to learn about the results. However, as soon as I finish reading, my eyes are closing and I fall asleep.

How can you get involved with World Cancer Research Day?

1. Sign the World Declaration for Cancer Research

2. On 24 September share a snapshot on social media from a day in your life as a cancer researcher: use #WorldCancerResearchDay

Click here to see more posts about a ‘Day in the Life’ of other cancer researchers.

About the author:

I am a molecular epidemiologist with a training in nutrition and public health. As a cancer researcher, I investigate the relationship of biological markers (measured in blood, urine or stool) with clinical outcomes such as recurrence and survival in colorectal cancer patients.